3D printed bones – Korea is showing the world how to use this new technology


It was a miracle surgery that changed the life of a young Korean military officer.  When this army officer came to Dr. Kang Hyun-Guy at the National Cancer Center in Korea with a tumor in his foot, he had two options:

  1. Amputation of his foot to stop the spread of the dreaded cancer
  2. Wait for an unspecified period of time for a suitable bone tissue to be used in the heel.

Fortunately for the young man, he had to do none, thanks to 3D printing technology.

Korea is indeed ahead in the race when it comes to technological innovations, and use of 3D technology for medicine is just another example. Using 3D printed bones in surgery is a big step forward for the rest of the world, and Korea is showing the way.

An advantage of 3D printing is that it can be precisely customized for each patient. For instance, when the young cancer patient reported at the Korean medical center, the technicians created an implant design using grey titanium. The titanium was melted and a skull was created that fit smoothly into the man’s heel. It took the doctors and technicians only two weeks to bring about this revolutionary change that perfectly fit the person’s anatomy. And, yes, the heel bone is strong enough to bear the soldier’s weight.

This is not the first time Korea has done such a ground-breaking surgery. This year, more than hundred 3D printed technology surgeries were performed in Korea. Another 3D printed surgery was performed on a 16-year old, who got a pelvic tumor removed and had a 3D printed pelvic bone implanted instead. Before the surgery, the young girl had gone through radiation and other traditional procedures, but it didn’t result in positive outcome. It was then that the medical team decided to remove the tumor, but were apprehensive and unsure of the next step. A 3D printed pelvis was implanted as this was the best alternative, and doctors made history as it was the first such surgery in Korea. This not only reduced the surgery time to four hours, but also cut down the recovery time. The girl was able to walk within seven days of the critical surgery; much ahead of the normal one-month recovery period.

Medical professionals recognize the fact that nothing is impossible as far as 3D printing technology is concerned. Whether the surgery involves removal of a tumor or inserting a 3D implant, this path-breaking technology has ushered in a new ray of hope in the lives of patients in distress. With the expansion of the 3D printing industry, the world of medicine is poised for exciting times ahead. Although the doctors have performed many such surgeries, cost is still a huge concern. Patients need to be monitored after they have undergone surgeries, which adds to the nursing expenses. However, with time and further innovation, these surgeries would surely be more streamlined and insurance companies would hopefully cover 3D implant procedures.

What is your opinion on this? Will 3D printing have a big impact on surgeries, and medicine in general? Please share with the community.